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Animalcule ("little animal", from Latin animal + the diminutive suffix -culum) is an older term for a microscopic animal or protozoan. The concept appears to have been proposed at least as early as around 30 BC, as evidenced by this translation from Marcus Varro's Rerum Rusticarum Libri Tres:

"Note also if there be any swampy ground, both for the reasons given above, and because certain minute animals, invisible to the eye, breed there, and, borne by the air, reach the inside of the body by way of the mouth and nose, and cause diseases which are difficult to be rid of."[1]

Some better-known animalcules include:

The term was also used by Anton van Leeuwenhoek, the 17th-century preformationist and the discoverer of microorganisms, to describe them.[2]

The word appears in adjectival form in the "Major-General's Song", in which Major-General Stanley sings, "I know the scientific names of beings animalculous..."[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Storr-Best, Lloyd (1912). Varro on farming. M. Terenti Varronis Rerum rusticarum libri tres. London: G. Bell and Sons. p. 39.
  2. ^ Buckley, Don MSc; Miller, Zipporah MA(Ed); Padilla, Michael J PhD; Thornton, Kathryn PhD; Wysession, Michael PhD (2012). Indiana Interactive Science Grade 7. p. 500.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  3. ^ "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General". Paragraph #2.CS1 maint: others (link)